I have to applaud the focus on adaptation over mitigation. These changes are happening or likely, now what can we do to adapt. The other response of trying to drastically cut CO2 emissions to avoid or reduce climate change lacks two of the most important pieces of information required to evaluate it. How much does our reduction of CO2 emission mitigate future change, and what is the reduced cost of adaptation? Without knowing those two pieces, the decision to reduce CO2 emissions to 'save future dollars' is a blind guess, and there are a lot of much, much better reasons to reduce dependency on oil from places like the ME.
I know someone is going to jump in and claim we DO know the impact of increasing/reducing our CO2 emissions in the future. I say that the current research papers confirm the opposite, even the IPCC's latest paper. We've done lots of modelling of temperature change, but have badly neglected the energy balance. You know, the actual energy in versus out of the atmosphere that is the ACTUAL greenhouse affect that CO2 functions on. Luckily we started measuring observations by satellite in the late 80s.The ERBS and CERES programs from NASA have given us direct measurements of trends in the overall energy balance at the edge of space. The most direct measurement of global warming that we can have. The summary from each program, has let us find a decade level average energy imbalance, and we've found it is in good or at least general agreement with energy levels measured via Ocean Heat Content observations.
Here's the important bit though. As the IPCC's most recent AR has observed, the satellite measurements show that for the duration of the CERES project, there has been NO TREND in the energy imbalance. The earlier ERBS data showed the same as well. Our satellite measurements have shown significant and very steady trends in energy balance cycling monthly, but the average over the years and decades we've measured is just a steady and consistent average neither shifting noticeably up or down. Meanwhile, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere over that same time have climbed like nobody's business. All our models and expectation for X degrees of warming for so much CO2 kinda hinges pretty heavy on CO2 pushing up the energy imbalance. If it's not, and observations suggest that. We may not need to be so worried as some of the panic ridden crowd wants. That said, we DO still have an annual energy imbalance adding energy to the planet, it just has been adding as much last year, as it did the year before, on back through to 2000. Even though in 2000 CO2 concentrations were lower, the imbalance just hasn't changed. We are thus facing increasing energy(general warming), but thus far our direct measurements can't detect the difference our increasing CO2 concentrations are making.
Before I get citation needed shoved down my throat, here's a peer reviewed journal article published in Geophysical Research Letters. It is comparing observed atmosphere energy imbalance to the CMIP5 model runs. It finds good agreement, but also makes the very notable observation that the energy imbalance trend is dominated by volcanic activity(ie NOT the CO2 levels that are higher than they've been in millenia). Full abstract:
Observational analyses of running 5 year ocean heat content trends (Ht) and net downward top of atmosphere radiation (N) are significantly correlated (r~0.6) from 1960 to 1999, but a spike in Ht in the early 2000s is likely spurious since it is inconsistent with estimates of N from both satellite observations and climate model simulations. Variations in N between 1960 and 2000 were dominated by volcanic eruptions and are well simulated by the ensemble mean of coupled models from the Fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). We find an observation-based reduction in N of 0.31±0.21Wm2 between 1999 and 2005 that potentially contributed to the recent warming slowdown, but the relative roles of external forcing and internal variability remain unclear. While present-day anomalies of N in the CMIP5 ensemble mean and observations agree, this may be due to a cancelation of errors in outgoing longwave and absorbed solar radiation.
So again in summary to the actual science, we should absolutely be looking at how to adapt to overall warming, because it's happening. Despite knowing that CO2 acts as a greenhouse gas and contributes to warming, we DO NOT have a strong and high confidence in just how much impact increasing CO2 levels will have on future energy imbalance and temperature change. That is to say, we can't confidently state the difference between spending millions, billions or trillions into CO2 reductions will have on future energy imbalance and temperature change. Without that, spending our dollars on coping with the changes that are coming is by far the most efficient spending we can make. Besides, with Oil coming out of the middle east and things like Tesla electric cars around the corner, we'll find plenty of reasons to cut way back on our oil burning soon enough for entirely different reasons.